Emily Bazelon’s most recent NY Times Magazine article, The Online Avengers, details the activities of a group of individuals who “scour the internet for personal data” of bullies and then “publicly link that information to the perpetrator’s transgressions.” This practice of trolling the internet for transgressions is known as “doxxing.” The article focuses in particular attention to a man named Ash, who, together with a woman named Katherine, created an online group called OpAntiBullying. Although the group never met in person, and never met the victims for whom they championed, they worked together, for a while at least, to publicly shame adolescent bullies. One focus of the article is the infighting that eventually occurred among the small group of “do-gooders,” highlighting the fragile bond between zealots brought together by a common cause, and the way in which their united enthusiasm lead to an equally fevered undoing.
What struck me most about the article, was the use of the word doxx, which I hadn’t heard before. A cursory google search suggests the word has yet to gain much traction. Urbandictionary.com defines doxx as exposing someone’s true identity. A practice, the site suggests “is one of the scummiest things someone can do on the internet.” In contrast, Emily Bazelon profiles doxxing in a more positive manner. In her article Bazelon credits doxxing with bringing down the defendants in the Steubenville sexual assault case and with bringing awareness to a similar assault in Canada.
Doxxers are hackers. In most instances, a doxx can only occur if one breaks into someone’s twitter account, or instagram feed, finding incriminating comments or pictures. Consequently, most doxxers are anonymous, as was the case in the article.
But the practice and the goals of doxxers create a dichotomoy with which I am not sure I am comfortable. While a doxxers goal is more laudable, the conduct necessary to reach his or her goal is often illegal. Its a little like Robin Hood, committing a crime to achieve a better good. I am not sure how I come out on this, though I suspect I fall on the side of legality (would one expect otherwise from a lawyer?)
Regardless, I suspect doxx will become a word uttered with increasing frequency in the coming year. Thoughts, examples or opinions on doxx are greatly welcomed.